Chapter 35 -- Fugitive
Tommy turned south, away from the port area.
There was a convenient drive-through ATM machine at a bank at the corner, just taunting him. His card was worthless now.
He’d been counting on that money.
I’ve got to get back to the ship.
But how, if the cops were following him?
There was a branch road off to the right. He took it, directly into a forested area. He slowed enough to fish the scanner out of his pocket, and held it to his ear.
“...late teens, last seen leaving parking lot on a motorcycle.”
No doubt now. They’re looking for me.
There was more, he listened in sick fascination as more police cruisers were called in.
They’re building a road block. Highway 72, the way he came in, was covered, as was 22, the route that followed the coast. Even the highway he’d just pulled off was now covered. Some police were headed to the marina.
He took the narrow road and took the first west branch he found.
How did they know that? Bree had pointed out the license tag when they were working on the battery modification, and produced a black felt-tipped marker and began to alter the number. A ‘P’ became a ‘B’, and ‘31’ became ‘87’.
But the radio dispatcher had given the original number.
It has to be the company. They’ve called in the police to help in their dragnet. One more hope shot down.
“Uh, oh.” The road he was on ended at a lake. He turned around and retraced his path.
The map he’d scribbled was now worthless. Every major road out of Traverse City was being watched, and that’s all he’d written down.
I should have bought that GPS when I had the chance.
The money was gone now. Or maybe the money was still there, waiting to trap him again. In any case, he should just toss the card and forget it.
But he didn’t. It was from Nick and Mom’s last bequest to him. If for no other reason, he wouldn’t give it up unless he had to.
And there was always the possibility of using it to leave a false trail.
Not that he was having any luck with those.
If they knew he was here, on his motorcycle, then no way he was heading to Alabama. By the time the SIM card got to Chicago, no matter what Glasses did with it, the Cleaners would be suspicious.
He took a north turn. Watch for road signs. There was little difference between these roads and the highways. He’d have to avoid accidentally returning to one of the marked routes.
The radio gave more information.
“...possible kidnapping...” and then there was a detailed description of the kidnapper.
That’s Nick! They were looking for Nick!
His brain burned through the ramifications. Nick was still free. They didn’t know they had separated. There was no description that would lead the Traverse City cops to expect that Nick was injured. They didn’t know they’d shot him.
Maybe Dek was innocent after all. Just scared.
But if Dek didn’t tell them about raising the mast at the Milwaukee shipyard, how did they learn about the card?
Nick isn’t perfect. Maybe he was just out of his class in moving large sums of cash through the banking system.
He turned at the next road, and then turned again after a couple of miles. Stay heading west. Stay off the highways.
Another small lake quickly blocked his way.
By the time he was out of range of the Traverse City police radios, he was totally lost.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
Marvin had been right all along. It had been too dangerous to make this trip. The only reason for getting the tools was to gain information -- information that would help him avoid being caught.
But if they caught him getting the tools -- what a stupid move!
He glanced at his watch. Over three hours of his four-hour window were already gone.
And if the police are hot on my tail, what then?
Should he even risk the chance of leading them to the ship?
Marvin. Bree. Marilu. He saw their faces.
No. They didn’t deserve it.
But it’s my ship!
If they sailed away with the Marissa, and left him here, how could he live with that?
He wasn’t choosing his routes carefully. The clock was ticking. Head west!
But his choices had dwindled from two-lane blacktop roads to dirt tracks.
And now, it had become little more than a footpath for animals. His wheels bounced and jerked through the braided notch.
Trees obscured his view in all directions. No time to turn back. Surely, if he just made it through this, he’d pick up a better road.
Ah. Sunlight. It was clearing.
The path led into a meadow. And across the river blocking his way, he could see a carved dirt road leading off in the distance.
The river was too wide, and probably too deep to cross. He looked both directions.
That way leads to the lake. The river widened. He’d never cross that way.
About forty feet. Could I jump it?
He looked around. A low berm of earth caught his eye. That would have to be his ramp. There was no time to build anything. He looked back the way he came.
Equations popped into his head.
No time for that! He hit the handlebars hard enough to hurt. It would work, or it wouldn’t. He had no time to calculate it out, to play it safe.
He spun the wheels turning back to the edge of the meadow. Under the seat was the override switch. He flipped it.
“Now don’t use this,” Marvin said. “I’m warning you. The windings will burn out in short order. They just aren’t designed for this.”
“Okay, Marvin. Just in an emergency.”
He twisted the throttle, and struggled to keep the bike from flipping him off. It was powerful.
He didn’t look at the speedometer. It didn’t matter. He kept his eyes on the far shore, willing himself to make it.
Hitting the ramp rattled his teeth, and immediately, he was airborne. I’m gonna crash!
Everything was in slow motion. The front wheel crept upward, and he tapped the rear brakes to bring it down. The horizon was twisting, but he could do nothing but shift his body.
The landing was rough. He bounced across the grassy bank. He almost made a controlled touchdown.
But the soil was soft and he couldn’t keep control. He was thrown clear and that same soft soil was the only thing that kept his bones intact.
“Whoah.” His heart was tripping in his chest, and he felt light-headed. But there was no time for that.
He checked the bike. Something about the front wheel didn’t feel quite right, but it still worked.
Click. Back to normal power. A wisp of acrid smoke told him the electric motor was unhappy, but it still responded. He hadn’t burned it out.
He winced, getting back on. Bruised by the landing, or by his tumble, the ruts in the path were more noticeable.
The dirt road led quickly to a paved road, but there were no markings. He turned to the right. It went on for about three miles, following a path between two little lakes.
And then, Highway 22. Across the way, he could see water stretching as far as the eye could see.
“Lake Michigan.” It looked like home.
It has to be to the right. He’d never crossed Highway 72, so... This way to Empire.
He took a quick look at his watch.
He’d been gone four hours and fifteen minutes. He nudged the throttle more, and felt the front wheel shimmy. Ignore it.
There was no traffic on the road, but he kept his eyes open. Were the police searching this far from the city?
It was like a bank of clouds moving in, this hard evidence that police were searching for him. Up until now, he could spin his theories and imagine the good possibilities, as well as the bad.
But now most of the good ones were gone. He couldn’t pretend it was all a mistake, or that he was just being paranoid, caught up in Marvin’s worries. It really was bad.
He needed to get back on board, and take them as far away as he could.
What’s that! He slowed.
But it was just an old farm pickup, up ahead, going slow.
Creeping up behind it, Tommy turned up the motor noise, so he’d sound normal.
And around the next bend, there was Empire.
The pickup pulled in at his intersection, and he followed, but when it turned again, he went straight on to the beach.
The fog was all gone. The sky was clear and he could see far out into the lake. There was no sign of a sail.
“No.” The Marissa was gone.
Grief washed over him, blinding him. The ship had been home, and in some way he hadn’t realized until now, the eyes of his mother, watching over him.
He’d lost her.